Souvenirs such as Star Ferry baubles, tram magnets among hot items for those leaving Hong Kong

Souvenirs and cards of sentimental value in Hong Kong are popular with people leaving the city. (Photo: South China Morning Post)

HONG KONG: Sales of Hong Kong-themed souvenirs, from tram magnets to baubles with miniature red taxis, Star Ferry vessels and dim sum, have picked up and businesses say it is all thanks to the spike in Hong Kongers emigrating.

Where previously it was mainly tourists and departing expatriates who looked for knick-knacks to remember their time in the city, shop owners have seen more local customers shopping for farewell gifts over the past two years.

Beijing's imposition of the national security law on Hong Kong in 2020 sparked a wave of emigration, with countries such as the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia easing their entry rules for Hongkongers.

More recently, the fifth wave of the Covid-19 pandemic also led to departures, especially of expatriates unhappy with the city's ongoing tight pandemic restrictions.

Claire Yates, founder of Lion Rock Press, which sells Hong Kong-inspired gifts, books and stationery, said she has seen rising demand for gifts meant for those leaving Hong Kong.

She said in nearly 10 years in business, demand used to rise usually over summer, when families preferred to relocate with minimum impact on their children's school schedule.

"These days people buy 'leaving gifts' all year round," she said, adding that while she used to serve mostly expatriates, local Chinese now made up roughly half her customers.

Most popular were items with uniquely Hong Kong elements and farewell messages, some of which could be made to order.

"One of the most popular items are tram magnets where you can write your own message, such as 'Goodbye and good luck' with your friend's name on it. Another popular item is a tea towel that says, 'You can leave Hong Kong but it will never leave you,'" she said.

Given the demand, she plans to expand the range of gifts for people leaving the city, including farewell cards that can be signed by groups of colleagues or friends.

"We will be launching a new range of larger-sized cards with 'leaving HK' designs, with space for a lot of people to sign their names," she said.

One of her customers, who bought farewell gifts for two close friends who left Hong Kong recently, said the gifts would remind them of their time in the city.

They included a puzzle set with illustrations of dim sum, egg waffles and the Big Buddha on Lantau Island, and Christmas baubles featuring the city's iconic red cabs, Star Ferry and trams.

"Both families absolutely loved their gifts," the customer said. "The baubles will remind them each year of Christmases they spent with us here."

Online shops have also added new farewell gifts, such as a milk tea set reminiscent of the city's cha chaan teng cafes, and bowls in the shape of egg tarts.

The owner of CuteFigureHK, a gift shop specialising in custom-made 3D action figures and items such as ferris wheels, said business had risen with the emigration trend.

"We are considering producing more new products soon," said the woman, who gave only her surname, Cheung.

Danny Ma, founder of One Piece Making, an online shop specialising mainly in pet-themed products, said he began selling farewell gifts about six month ago.

"We would not have been able to sell our Lion Rock sculptures had it not been for the trend of people leaving the city," he said.

He has sold about 100 of the replicas of the famous granite peak in Sha Tin.

The British government has said that it received 103,900 applications from Hong Kong residents wishing to enter the country through its British National (Overseas) route between Jan 31, 2021 and the end of last year. Of that total, 97,057 applications were granted.

Canada's relaxed immigration pathway for Hong Kongers drew at least 14,500 applications from residents keen to work or study there as a step towards obtaining permanent residence.

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